Main Street Dubuque IA

Dubuque, Iowa – Main Street

Main Streets 2017: Iowa

Main Street Dubuque IA
All That Jazz Dubuque IA
Clock Tower Dubuque IA
Farmers Market Dubuque IA2
Farmers Market Dubuque IA
Main Street Dubuque IA All That Jazz Dubuque IA Clock Tower Dubuque IA Farmers Market Dubuque IA2 Farmers Market Dubuque IA

Dubuque is Iowa’s oldest city, and a century ago, it was a major manufacturing center renowned for its beautiful river vistas and stunning Victorian architecture. But over the years, its heavy industry faded, and by the 1970s, the downtown needed serious work.

The city responded. Local leaders embraced the national Main Street movement, dedicated to revitalizing historic downtowns and neighborhoods. Dubuque’s historic Main Street and its downtown environs were well worth reviving — and it wasn’t long before money was raised and decayed remains of the industrial age had been replaced by new river walks, parks, art galleries and plentiful things to do.

The Saturday farmer’s market, dating to 1858, is the oldest in this state known for its agriculture. It closed for a time in the 1970s, but came back with arts and crafts added to the splendid array. Today’s market features over 130 vendors, kids’ activities, live music and special events.

The not-for-profit Dubuque Main Street hosts Fall into Art, a self-guided tour of the downtown Dubuque Cultural Corridor, which includes Cable Car Square, the Historic Millwork District, Historic Old Main, and Upper Main/Farmers’ Market. Working artists show their paintings, pottery, photography and much more.

While you’re admiring the art downtown, you can also admire the architecture — including the Carnegie-Stout Library, built in 1901 in Neo-Classical Revivalist style, a block from Main on West 11th Street.

Also a block off Main, at 8th and Iowa, is the Grand Opera House, built in 1890 and still the oldest stage in town. Superstars like Henry Fonda and Sarah Bernhardt performed at the Opera House during its first four decades. The venue has been in near continuous operation, but suffered from deferred maintenance before being renovated in the late 2oth century, inside and out, and reopened as a local gem reborn.

Historic Old Main, a gateway district to downtown that has also seen a good deal of reinvestment, offers retail shopping, locally owned bars and restaurants, as well as live music. Its centerpiece is the Five Flags Center, a 1911 venue formerly known as the Majestic Theatre that was saved from demolition, renovated and reopened in 1979. City-owned and home to the Dubuque Symphony, the center hosts a wide variety of theater, music, sports and festival events. It’s named for the five national flags — of France, Spain, Great Britain, Napoleon’s French Republic, and the U.S.A. — that have flown over Dubuque during its long, rich and still-unfolding history.

All photos courtesy of Visit Dubuque

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Iowa City, Iowa – Iowa Avenue

Main Streets 2016: Iowa

Home to the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop since 1936, Iowa City has such a unique place in American literary history that it’s the only U.S. community so far named a UNESCO City of Literature. It joins Edinburgh, Dublin, Prague and others as one of just 20 Cities of Literature worldwide. You can appreciate what led to this honor just by walking along Iowa Avenue.

The Iowa Avenue Literary Walk is a series of bronze relief panels set into the pavement on both sides of this broad, pedestrian-friendly avenue. The panels feature passages from the work of 49 authors who have lived in the city or studied at the Writers’ Workshop. Spotlighting adult and children’s fiction, plays and memoirs, the panels also give brief biographical information. The Literary Walk honors writers as diverse as Robert Frost, Kurt Vonnegut, Tennessee Williams, Flannery O’Connor and W.P. Kinsella, whose novel, “Shoeless Joe,” was adapted into “Field of Dreams,” probably the best-known film set in this state.

You’ll find the plaques between Clinton and Gilbert streets just east of the Pentacrest, a park-like square whose broad lawns surround the Old Capitol, a National Historic Landmark. The Old Capitol dominates vistas along the avenue; its dome is the University of Iowa’s logo, and the building today houses a museum of state and university history. Also located on the Pentacrest is the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History, the oldest university museum west of the Mississippi.

Iowa Avenue leads both east and west from the Pentacrest, through the heart of downtown. It offers taphouses and taverns, ethnic eateries and nightspots, and shopping, and the downtown district is alive with attractions — art galleries, theaters and music venues. Special events here include sidewalk sales, summer and holiday festivals, food and wine events, FlyOver Fashion Fest in May, Taste of Iowa City in August and a Downtown Gallery Walk that takes place three times a year. October brings the six-day Iowa City Book Festival, when some 100 authors and 4,000 book lovers enjoy readings, discussions and other events in and around downtown.

The city’s economy is healthy, with the university and its hospital system the leading local employer. The quality of life here is high — so much so that in 2004, Forbes rated Iowa City as the third “Best Small Metropolitan Area in the U.S.” Two years later, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance ranked the city tenth among its “Top 50 Smart Places to Live.”

Street photo courtesy of Think Confluence
All other photos courtesy of Justin Torner

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